Man United: When Sir Alex Ferguson almost sacked Mike Phelan for balloon incident

  • Rob Swan

It’s no secret that Manchester United’s legendary former manager Sir Alex Ferguson had a ruthless streak.

You wouldn’t want to get on the wrong side of the fiery, intimidating Scot.

If Ferguson felt that an individual at the club was becoming a negative influence or getting too big for their boots, that was it: they were done at Old Trafford.

The likes of Jaap Stam, David Beckham, Roy Keane and Ruud van Nistelrooy are among the legendary players who left United after falling out with Fergie.


The ex-United boss always ensured that *he* was the main man at Old Trafford.

Ferguson always had his reasons for getting rid of an individual, although it would have been incredibly harsh had Mike Phelan been given the boot for popping a balloon back in 2008.

You’ve probably seen the funny clip on many occasions over the past 13 years.


A yellow balloon floats over to the away dugout, Phelan burst it, Ferguson jumps out of his skin and then tells his right-hand man to “f*** off”.

You can watch the brilliant video here…

It will never get old!

Ferguson nearly sacked Phelan afterwards

But did you know that Ferguson apparently almost sacked Phelan over the incident?

“I nearly lost my job the day after!” Phelan told the UTD Podcast.

“This balloon got into my head, it got into my psyche. I saw it bobbing around and I wasn’t interested in the game, to be perfectly honest.

“I was more interested in ‘if that balloon comes near me, it’s having it!’.


“It found its way to me, I picked it up and popped it, everybody else is watching a game and all of a sudden everyone’s jumped, nearly had a heart attack, the gaffer’s going berserk, and I’m sitting there laughing thinking ‘what’s all the fuss? I’ve just popped a balloon’.

“It was only until after I realised the enormity of it. Everybody jumped and thought something had gone on.

“It was funny. Well, I thought it was funny and others probably didn’t at the time.

“But I lived to tell the tale and I’m still in a job!”

In a Q&A session with the Manchester Football Association in 2020, Phelan admits he feared for his job after the incident.

“I think this was one of the most important moments in my coaching career by making myself famous on the internet,” he said. “My biggest worry was thinking I would have been sacked after it.”


Fortunately, Phelan kept his job and went on to help United lift several more trophies under Ferguson, who eventually retired in 2013.

But that was the last time he would ever dare to think about popping a balloon next to the great man.


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